Monday, April 30, 2012

Getting to Zero Waste

Throw Nothing Away

Waste = Resource in disguise = money
 ~ It's said one man's trash is another man's treasure.

Houston-based startup RecycleMatch seeks to not only prove that adage, but to profit from it. The company is building a cloud-based marketplace where companies with unwanted stuff can find companies with an unfilled need for that same stuff. The result? Less into landfills.

The listings are sorted by type of material, but the details vary widely. Some is free to claim, others are priced by the pound. There is, not surprisingly, a lot of plastic. Most things are valuable only for their materials, but there are some reusable items, such as wooden pallets. The listings include the location, so finding a match also involves accounting for location and potential shipping costs and logistics. Still, if the idea can be scaled up with more listings in more cities, quite a bit of usable material could be kept from expensive and unsustainable landfills.

Repurposing materials is critical to achieving zero wastethe end of garbage.
Zero waste is just what it sounds like - producing, consuming, and recycling products without throwing anything away. Getting to a wasteless world will require nothing less than a total makeover of the global economy, which thinkers such as entrepreneur Paul Hawken, consultant Amory Lovins, and architect William McDonough have called the Next Industrial Revolution.

They want industry to mimic biology, where one species' excrement is another's food. "We're not talking here about eliminating waste," McDonough explains. "We're talking about eliminating the entire concept of waste."
San Francisco aims to get there by 2020, and several other cities and a diverse group of companies are working to that end as well. But the market will need to be very large and have many participants to find uses for all the things we currently "throw away":
Well Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
I got forty red white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don't ring
Do you know where I can get rid of these things?
We can no longer dump everything by the side of the highway.

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